June 14, 2008

“Will Our Faith Have Children?”

Filed under: Faith Matters — Pastor Tim @ 9:37 pm

Then the LORD said, “I will surely return to you about this time next year, and Sarah your wife will have a son.”  Genesis 18:10

Abraham and Sarah laughed at the prospect of having children in their old age.  (Actually, it sounds as if they may have laughed at the prospect of having intercourse. v. 12)  But God was faithful and gave them Isaac, so the promise of becoming a great nation could be carried on through him.

Today many congregations struggle with a limited number of younger members.  We worry about no one being in the church when current generations have passed away.  We don’t want to promote the idea of having children simply for the purpose of saving the church!   But we do need to listen to the story of Abraham and Sarah to find ways towards our future.

Years ago, a book was written called Will Our Children Have Faith?  [John Westerhoff III, New York: The Seabury Press, 1976]  It was an important book concerning how the church would need to address Christian education at a time when many young people were beginning to experiment with alternative lifestyles.  However, a decade later, a seminary professor turned that book’s title around in a speech he gave.  [Walter Brueggemann, Hope Within History, Atlanta: John Knox Press, 1987, “Will Our Faith Have Children?” first presented at Eden Theological Seminary, St. Louis, 1983]  By twisting that title, he invited the church to focus on how we live in ways that trust God’s ability to bring about a future that we cannot yet imagine.

He suggested we need to truly grieve the death of some methods of being church in our culture.  Then we need to embrace the dying of those old ways of being church.  And finally we be able to embrace new opportunities to live our faith with integrity.

A couple of decades later, I’d like to suggest that we are still working at grieving the loss of institutional religion and at embracing truly inclusive community as the way to identify our lives of faith.

I don’t have any easy answers for working at this.  (Modern music may have brought more young people to our institutions, but it doesn’t automatically shape disciples for inclusive community!)  Yet we do still have the story of Sarah and Abraham.

May their laughter give shape to our hope in God’s providing new life, new birth, new future!

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